Our garden store held a sale at the beginning of autumn, offering unlabelled bulbs for 10 cents each. I scooped up big handfuls because I love to garden with a bargain. Lucy and I planted them under our avenue of fruit trees (well, three in a line) and waited to see what would happen. Yellow has happened. Behold the first daffodil in our garden:
To my delight, we've inherited a couple of big clumps of jonquils but no one before us has planted daffs. I'm not overly fond of them myself. Jonquils are sweetly scented and subtle; even the brightest seem understated, politely suggesting we not give up hope, spring will come again. These shafts of bright yellow put me in mind of a slightly overdressed guest at a party, proposing an awkward toast at not quite the right time. I'm partial to a garish flower, but I always feel slightly embarrassed for daffodils, announcing something we'd all suspected for weeks: it can't stay cold forever. They are magnificent in their thousands, a wide sweep under a sharp blue sky, or breaking through the snow, a strong restatement of earlier, more subtle implications that things are happening. But they seem a little out of place popping up by themselves in the back of the veggie garden. I'm appreciative of their efforts, but they don't have the resonance I'd expected having grown up on a steady diet of British children's books, with their accounts of cold, cold winters and the welcome creeping spring.
I look for spring elsewhere, not on the calendar or in the temperature but in subtle shifts of activity and colour in my backyard. I see the beginning of nuptial activity amongst the birds, and this will soon be followed by beaks full of hen house straw and labradoodle wool flitting past our windows. The jasmine is full of elegant pink tips; I catch its scent and my heart stops and then beats a little faster in hope and nostalgia. And most excitingly, the chooks have started laying: five eggs today, the most we've seen in many months.
And here's something bright to put a spring in my step and a smile on my face: my new wellies. They're garish and brash and so very different from the black pairs scattered across the back steps in my childhood.
As children we were told to stamp on the toes of our boots and then shake them upside down to kill any spiders who might crawled in to nest. I've done this religiously over the decades but not now, not with these boots. They're so very funky they could harbour nothing bad at all. I've used them about the place and on trips up to the dog park but they haven't yet been christened with a stretch of hard garden work - just one more reason to look forward to the weekend,